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TV doc sets pulses racing; The nation's best known doctor, Embarrassing Bodies presenter Christian Jessen, tells Roz Laws about his life as a celebrity medic.

Byline: Roz Laws

He has become the nation's doctor, the person patients turn to when they can't face their own GP.

The reassuring bedside manner of Dr Christian Jessen has become synonymous with embarrassing complaints, to the extent that his name came up during the recent Damian Mc- Bride scandal.

The Labour spin doctor's ideas to smear top Tories included using a picture of Christian to suggest he was treating David Cameron for an embarrassing illness. But Christian doesn't mind in the least being unwittingly mixed up in the scandal, despite never having met the Conservative leader.

He says: "It's a huge compliment they picked my name, it means people associate embarrassing illnesses with a picture of me. I thought it was wonderful.

"Now every MP will know who I am, and I bet none of them will want to be seen standing next to me!" Christian hosts the Channel 4 series Embarrassing Bodies, which is made in Birmingham. They set up their surgery in the Beetham Tower, above the Radisson Hotel in the city centre, and people flock there to expose their weird and wonderful complaints - everything from piles and incontinence to psoriasis and asymmetric breasts - to millions of viewers.

In tomorrow's show, the team set up a temporary clinic at Birmingham International Airport to help anyone who's picked up an unwanted holiday souvenir.

Christian says: "When we first started, I didn't think people would come forward.

But telly is a very powerful thing and they want to be on it.

"I worried it would be schlocky, just 'let's look at lots of awful things'. I didn't want it to be a freak show, parading people for the sake of it. It has to be educational and have relevance to viewers.

If it becomes sensationalist, I wouldn't do it. It's lovely when people say 'I've watched you so much, I feel like I know you'. They don't feel as comfortable with their own GP." Christian also presents the Channel 4 series Supersize vs Superskinny, giving dietary and medical advice to the very thin and obese. After all he's seen, is he unshockable? "I can certainly deal with any yucky thing you show me, but I am shocked by ignorance and by some of the stories I've heard. I work in sexual health and people tell me awful things about rape, drugs and HIV. The day I'm not shocked by them, I should stop. The level of ignorance in the UK is also shocking. Many young people still don't know how HIV is contracted." Embarrassing Bodies has broken TV boundaries with its pre-watershed nudity and explicit information.

"I don't think there's anything we shouldn't show on television," says Christian, who doesn't mind exposing his own gym-toned body on TV. "If we weren't so prudish, people wouldn't be too embarrassed to seek treatment." Last month Embarrassing Bodies won a Bafta for its interactive website, designed by Birmingham company Made Media, which saw Christian mixing in glamorous company.

"It was an amazing night, meeting Helen Mirren and having Harry Hill come up to say he's a fan. We really didn't think we had a chance, we were up against the Olympics which is such a big budget operation. We were in shock when they read out our name." Christian, 32, graduated in medicine in 2000. After living in Kenya and Uganda, where he researched malaria and HIV, he returned to London to set up a private sexual health and travel clinic in Harley Street.

People can book themselves an appointment with him in September when he comes to Birmingham Town Hall to give a talk, and no doubt there will be plenty of fans in the audience. He admits he receives explicit mail from women asking for intimate examinations.

"They are downright filthy!" he laughs.

"It's flattering but a little alarming. Some of them are very persistent, ringing my agent and demanding to speak to me.

"Some e-mails are very explicit about what they want me to do to them sexually, and they don't use polite anatomical terms." His female fans are barking up the wrong tree as he is gay.

"I don't make a secret of it, but I don't make a big deal of my sexuality either," says Christian, who has a partner. "It should be utterly irrelevant to my work.

But what I do is intimate doctoring and unfortunately that clouds things. There's always a slightly nasty and unsavoury element who might react badly to the fact I'm gay."

Christian is a classically-trained musician who plays the oboe and piano and almost went to music rather than medical school.

He has appeared on Celebrity Weakest Link but had to turn down Strictly Come Dancing because he didn't have the time.

"I hate reality shows where celebrities do nothing, sitting in a house or the jungle making idiots of themselves.

"I like ones where you have to learn a skill. I'd love to have done Maestro, learning to conduct an orchestra." His next TV project is a one-hour special on the health of the elderly, who he says are "completely ignored by TV", followed by a series on overseas plastic surgery.

Christian says: "People go abroad because it's cheaper, then the NHS has to pick up the pieces when it goes wrong.

People have had horrendous things done and in our series we will correct the botched jobs." WEB: channel4embarrassingillnesses.

com for more information on the programme.

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There to hear about your most embarrassng illnesses: Dr Christian Jessen
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 12, 2009
Words:920
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